The Magic of Shabbat in Israel

Written by: Mirit Eliyahu, Masa
September 2020

The Magic of Shabbat in Israel

This is a sponsored post from Masa, the global leader in immersive international career development and leadership experiences in Israel for young Jewish adults from around the world. With a variety of long-term programs in Israel, Masa is able to provide meaningful, enriching experiences to young Jews from many different countries, backgrounds, levels of education, and fields.

As the week in Israel comes to an end, you can begin to see Shabbat everywhere you look. From shopping at the shuk (market) to people traveling home to be with family to groups gathering on the beach in Tel Aviv – Shabbat in Israel is a magical experience.

I’ve always cherished those special moments when the world comes to a stop, work takes the back seat, and friends and family become the center of attention. I do my best to create this type of atmosphere in New York every week, but sometimes I wish it was a little bit easier. One of my favorite parts about Shabbat in Israel is that it’s a community experience; you feel it everywhere.

I’ve been working at Masa Israel Journey for the past 3 years, and every time I speak to our program Fellows about their experiences, I get the all-too-familiar urge to head back to Israel.

We asked our most recent alumni to share with us what their first Shabbat experiences were like in Israel and wanted to share a few of their responses. (If this just so happens to make you want to return to Israel or visit for the first time ever, you know where to find us!)

Shabbat is different in Israel because…

You feel connected to everyone around you, inside and outside your house.

Shabbat is different in Israel because the entire country goes on pause for 25 hours. Regardless of whether you’re observant or not, Shabbat feels different in Israel, and that’s a special feeling.

Everywhere I went, there was a sense of family, even if I wasn’t actually related to anyone.

You feel like you are home.

Where did you spend your first Shabbat in Israel?


My grandparents’ house.

At the hostel on Argon Street.

My dorm with friends I met.

How did you prepare for your first Shabbat in Israel?

We got to go to Machaneh Yehuda and explore the shuk [market] a little bit.

We spent the day in Jerusalem and went to the shuk and to the Western Wall, where the host met us to walk us back to his house.

For my first Shabbat in Israel, my friends and I all got ready together and took pictures in the courtyard of our base. My whole program walked together to Yemin Moshe for Kabbalat Shabbat. We all stood at the overlook area near the windmill and it was such a special experience to all be together and to be able to look out into the city. We had Shabbat dinner together at the hostel and ended our night with the tradition of having a tisch [joyous celebration]. The Shabbat was extremely special as it really set the tone for creating a community within my program.

What was your takeaway from Shabbat in general?

I learned to disconnect more from my daily routine and have made a greater effort after my Masa program.

I learned how to dance!

This didn’t occur during my first Shabbat, but rather I gradually started keeping Shabbat by putting away my phone and attending Kabbalat Shabbat services regularly after finding “my shul” in Jerusalem.

It made me feel at home while in Israel. My mom cooks Shabbat every week, and when I went abroad, I really missed home-cooked meals and a feeling of family, so this Shabbat gave that feeling back to me.

The Masa Fellows we asked are from different cities across the USA, and they participated in all different kinds of programs (gap year, study abroad, internships, and teaching fellowships) – but they all agree, like we do at Masa, that there is some extra magic that comes with Shabbat in Israel.

Inspired? Click here to create a dinner or apply to become a host.